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Chester Youth Collaborative: A 5-Year Progress Report

Chester Youth Collaborative team members include, left to right, Ieasa Nichols, Janet Riley Ford, Bilal Taylor, Flora Williams-Johnson, Deitra Sewell, and Nafis Nichols.

The Chester Youth Collaborative (CYC) has benefited from much growth and success over the past four years and now heads into its fifth year with a promise of continued success and growth. The program is dedicated to reaching older youth in Chester’s and helping them transition successfully into adulthood through a myriad of out-of-school services, activities, and programs. 

The mission of the CYC is to foster a neighborhood-based youth development system that enhances the quality of opportunities for young people between the ages of 12 to 22, in the city of Chester. This mission is accomplished primarily by working to increase the quality, quantity and duration of out-of-school youth programs within the city. The CYC is comprised of five groups dedicated to implementing this neighborhood-based youth development system.

They are:

  • Youth Council, comprised of 52 young men and women who represent the youth voice throughout the city of Chester, working to change the perspective of Chester youth and to inspire youth action in their community.
  • Community Council, comprised of adults and youth in the community who work to strengthen relations within the community. This group serves as the lead for the federally funded Drug Free Communities Project.
  • Youth Serving Organization Council, comprised of 25 organizations serving Chester’s youth who work collectively to minimize duplication of services, improve program quality and the way in which they recruit, refer and track youth across the system.
  • Advisory Council, comprised of local, county, and statewide institutional leaders, working to identify and develop initiatives that benefit Chester’s youth. This group is charged with creating a public policy agenda with the city of Chester. 
  • CYC Board, comprised of representatives from all four groups, providing oversight for the efforts of the Collaborative.  

The CYC initially began with a three-year grant, awarded by the William Penn Foundation in December 2004. The first three years of the program was dedicated to establishing the infrastructure of the CYC. It was during this phase that the CYC officially became the Youth Development Resource for the city of Chester. Another multi-year grant was received in March 2008, allowing the CYC to expand its resource-building work locally and county-wide.

The secondary grant advanced the CYC’s work as an intermediary to:

  • Affect policy, by acting as an operational partner with the city of Chester; creating uniformed standards for city-funded youth-serving organizations (Chester Core Standards); creating a public policy agenda; and merging efforts to re-establish and expand the Chester Junior City Council.
  • Establish a uniform management information system (ETO), allowing organizations to effectively track program efforts, recruit and refer youth to appropriate services within and outside the CYC network.
  • Provide training and technical assistance to youth-serving organizations.
  • Sustain the existing efforts of the CYC. 

The primary goal is to continue working with the leadership councils — which include a city-wide youth council, a community council of adult residents, a youth-serving organizations council, and an advisory council to affect policy and leverage resources for youth.

Heading into their fifth year of operation, there have been many gains for Chester youth with regard to quantity, quality and accessibility of youth programs. The youth-serving organization’s council has grown from 15 in 2005 to more than 25 collaborating youth serving organizations in 2009. The CYC serves as a “clearinghouse” for quality programs for youth within six strategic areas: academic enrichment; mentoring; recreation and arts; employability and life skills; and skill development.

In order to build the resources available to Chester’s youth, the CYC has piloted a number of projects in conjunction with its many partner organizations throughout Delaware County.

Some of the programs include:

  • Delaware County Community College Student Success Program, a program created for high school students in Chester, has supported over 20 students who have received (3-9) college credits. The program has since been adopted by two Chester Upland School District High Schools (Allied Health School and Science to Discovery School).
  • Swarthmore College Advance Program was created in 2006 and has served over 30 high school students (10th, 11th and 12th) in Chester on Swarthmore's campus providing SAT, ACT preparation, tutoring, academic and cultural enrichment, college exploration, and parental assistance.
  • Employer Paid Internship (EPI) Program, a project sponsored by Philadelphia Youth Network, Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and the Chester Youth Collaborative employed over 37 youth in 2007. The program, which is led by EducationWorks, affords youth the opportunity to access paid summer internships with local businesses with the hope of future employment.  

These are just a few of the many programs that have been created in partnership with area institutions and the CYC to provide opportunities to youth in the city of Chester and encourage them to follow their education and career goals.

Once the foundation for the CYC was established, the process of sustaining programming and various initiatives that were launched, as well as maintaining funding, began. The CYC goals for the coming years include developing an enhanced communications strategy to engage greater numbers of community members and leaders in the work being done to support the opportunities that create a pathway to success for even greater numbers of older Chester youth. This goal will be achieved in several ways, including the use of viral and social media outlets such as:

The CYC continues to work to refine how it reaches its most important constituency, the Chester youth. This work continues through events — such as the annual Chester Youth Empowerment Summit (held at Widener University) — that foster constructive dialogue between older Chester youth, local public and private sector leaders, and adult residents of the city. The CYC aims to help create a shift among generations so youth are empowered to improve their own lives and, ultimately, improve the quality of life in their city.

To learn more about becoming involved with the CYC, visit

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